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Death by pseudowork

How you fool yourself by being productive

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Whether you’re an artist, a writer, or an entrepreneur, you know that in order to achieve something, you’ll have to do some work. You can’t sit around doing nothing. Your dreams won’t be fulfilled if you do. If you’re someone who wants to make an impact on the world, you know that work is required.

So you set out to work. But before you know it, you cannot force yourself to work anymore. The task is suddenly too intimidating. Too challenging. Too complex. You’re struck by procrastination.

Procrastination is a dreadful enemy to any actionable person. It’s the act of delaying, or postponing work to a later occasion. Many souls have felt its sting, because procrastination brings with it many unpleasant emotions. Anxiety, guilt, and worthlessness, to name a few.

Naturally, you want to avoid these emotions. One way of escaping them, is to quit entirely. However, this isn’t a glamorous option. Instead, what often happens is that you’ll find something else to do. You clean your room, you watch an educational YouTube video, or you make plans for the weekend. Sometimes you might even continue to work at your task, but do a less-than-good job at it. You just sit there, unfocused, doing things that isn’t necessary, and you pretty much just waste your time. Avoiding putting in the effort, and fooling yourself by thinking you’re actually working, might be the worst option of them all. Besides, it’s a bit tricky to realize when you’re doing it.

It took me some time to realize I was being fooled. By myself, and what I though was work. It was when I didn’t get the results I wanted that I started to realize this phenomenon. I call it death by pseudowork. Justifying poor effort, because it feels like you’re being productive. It’s not fun to discover, but necessary.

Although you might feel you’re being productive — and this in itself feels rewarding —avoiding the challenge might do you harm in the long run. Temporarily, you might feel good, but it doesn’t move you closer to your dreams. If you’re constantly putting off the most important tasks or engaging in terrible work, you’ll end up missing out on the things you want. If you continue this avoidance behavior over longer periods of time, your dreams will slowly fade. Moreover, if you don’t pull yourself together, your dreams might die altogether.

How to avoid dying

In order to stay on track, there’s a couple of things that can be done:

Catch yourself. This is the first step. You got to realize when you’re doing it. It is characterized by mindless wandering and effort. I hope that reading this article will make more aware.

Clarity. To achieve clarity of your task, you’ll need to know what you should be doing, and why you should be doing it. Your what and why should map to your goals. The things you’re aiming for.

You need to specify the task, and get clear on why it is important to accomplish it. How will it move you closer to your dreams? Why is this a crucial step in the process? Force yourself to think of the positive outcomes, as well as the negative consequences for not doing the task. This should hopefully give you some motivation to work with.

Get rid of distractions. When you’re free from distractions, you’ll gain even more clarity, as well as focus. Distractions can be both external and internal. External distraction are such things as uncomfortable noise, your phone, and various temptations. Internal ones are such things as lack of focus, justifying less-that-good behavior, and worrying about the outcome.

Rewards. Few tasks have immediate rewards in themselves. Getting that through your head is important. Still, you can reward yourself by other means. You can reward yourself when you’ve completed the task, or you can engage in a technique called temptation building. Temptation building is when you pair something you love with a challenging task. Make sure you do something you love ONLY while doing a task. This may condition your mind so that you want to work. Examples are; listening to your favorite music when replying to emails, or drinking your favorite blend of coffee while you write.

Pick your best time to work. Some people function at their best in the mornings. Others function at their best in the evening. Depending on which type of person you are, you should pick your working hours respectively. In addition, do the hardest tasks first. You’re more likely to have enough discipline when you’re fresh, and thus, be more able to put in the required effort.

Accountability. Having someone to be accountable to, will make you want to stay on track. You don’t want to disappoint someone, just because you’re lazy and hopeless. Quitting becomes a less viable option when your public reputation is on stake. Furthermore, the right accountability partner will support you, and push you forward.


I hope this helps, and I hope that you’ll achieve something great! Don’t postpone your dreams. Don’t gamble on tomorrow. And most importantly, don’t fool yourself.

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